The Joker 80th Anniversary issue is here and past anniversary issues have ranged from stellar, to great, to good. It can be a hit or miss operation after all, since the anthology can lead to stories that don’t resonate, or a mishmash of stories that don’t gel together. In the case of the Joker, I was the most nervous since this isn’t as much of a cut-and-dry character as Superman or Batman. Thankfully the chaotic nature of the character has made this collection a delight to read thanks to the various types of Joker we get in the 10 stories collected here.
This book opens with a story by the classic duo of Scott Snyder and Jock, and it is creepy as hell. It’s a horror story that’ll get under your skin and remind you Joker is all about psychological warfare. If teeth are an issue for you, this will seriously creep you out. It’s also a reminder Joker is nearly a phantom in his abilities to know things and get around. It’s a great story to kick off the tale as it’s quite adult and modern.
Following this is James Tynion IV and Mikel Janin’s Punchline story. A brief preview was posted a few months ago and it adds a bit of color to who Punchline is and where her allegiances lie. Janin’s art is fantastic, and you can see how a master can craft a dynamic scene even in a very tight college dorm room.
Next up is a tale by Gary Whitta and Greg Miller with art by Dan Mora. This is a good story that may seem slow and wordy, but ends on a high note. It’s an Elseworlds tale for sure, but one that reminds us how important Batman is to the Joker.
Things get a little less serious with Denny O’Neil and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez’s story, which features a kooky tale about Joker trying to help out for a good cause in South America. It shows how he’s a wacko, but also a silly sort of personality. That combo is frightening, but the color by Marcelo Maiolo and inks by Joe Prado keep it light and bright.
Peter J. Tomasi and Simone Bianchi deliver a visual feast in the next story that’s topsy turvy and psychological in nature. Paul Dini and Riley Rossmo are a great combo in the next story featuring a Joker nightmare that’s legit. It’s also a nice tie in to Harley’s desire to leave Joker.
Next up is a tale by Tom Taylor and Eduardo Risso that is out-of-this-world good. It centers on a clever concept as a young boy sits on his doorstep alone on his birthday. Joker comes on by and tries to brighten his day when he realizes this boy has potential after he picks the legs off bugs. Risso is doing some of his finest work — there are a few haunting images of Joker that’ll stick with you — rendering Joker in a more natural and believable way. It’s twisted, original, and feels like it could really happen.
Following this is a story by Eduardo Medeiros and Rafael Albuquerque that reminds us Joker is ruthless but also likes to play with people’s heads. This is followed up with a story by Tony S. Daniel that speaks to how Joker can get into your head and knows when to strike. Then finally, the last story is by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo that may or may not be an homage to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The art is a bit cartoony and the use of Ben-day dots helps place it at an older time. A unique sort of story that plays off the character’s madness.
This is a well-curated collection of stories reminding us Joker is not only scary, but also incredibly smart and versatile. A key element in all these stories is how Joker is very dangerous and never to be taken lightly. It’s a serious take on the character and a nice way to remind us of where this character is after a long history in DC Comics.